Chanel Vidal headshot

Chanel Vidal

Ocean Science Intern
Recent Graduate
Iowa State University

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

I'm currently focusing on fault formation in the Himalayas. The Himalayas are one of the few places where we observe normal faulting in a compressional regime and no one is quite sure why this is happening yet. I'm testing a theory called channel flow by running analog experiments in the lab to help understand what we observe in nature.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I've always been pretty geeky about cool rocks and wanting to understand how landscapes are shaped the way they are. Initially, I thought this could only exist as a side hobby that I enjoyed reading about, until my first research experience in Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, ID. I worked in the field all day for two weeks with geologists, biologists, organic geochemists and engineers from the NASA FINESSE research team who all introduced me to different aspects of geology. I didn't realize I could make something so exciting and awesome in my career! Ever since then, I've been hooked and searching for any and all ways I can explore our beautiful planet. I see an endless opportunity for exploration of our Earth, and now I can’t get enough of our oceans!

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My mom has always encouraged me to be curious and explore the questions that come to my mind. She’s had a huge impact on my habit of approaching questions scientifically and always opens my eyes to wander about the world around me.

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

I think the coolest part of geology is that it ties everything on this planet together. Every ecosystem, every person on this Earth, every natural phenomenon we observe can be explained by or is affected by something geologists study. Every time I think about the big picture of what humanity is a part of, I always go back to the lungs of our Earth - the oceans. Also, I've hiked through the crater of Mt. Teide, sailed through the Sargasso Sea, and walked on land less than 40 years old and all of it was for research in this field. The opportunity in exploration and the questions that remain unanswered about our blue waters are the best parts of this field!

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I’ve worked on a few NASA projects, all of which were geology related, and consisted of long hours in the field. After working on NASA BASALT missions, I was exposed to the intricacies of combining spaceflight operations with science and I fell in love with it all. We researched microbial life in different geologic environments all while having a similar time and communication restrictions that astronauts would have while doing a spacewalk on Mars. This combination of doing science under challenging environments and conditions has made me fall in love with working at sea. Additionally, a cruise aboard RV Endeavor helped me realize that this field helps us understand how to care for our oceans I can't think of anything that would feed my curiosity and passion for Earth more.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Geological Sciences - Iowa State University 2020

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy playing the ukulele, running, hiking in extreme environments and occasionally flying airplanes. Additionally, I enjoy cooking Indian food and trying new recipes and spice combinations!

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

A few of the scientists I did geologic fieldwork with also worked on the NASA SUBSEA missions, which were aboard EV Nautilus. This was one of the first times I was exposed to all the ways that the material from my geology courses could be brought to sea. After learning more about hydrothermal vent fields from SUBSEA, I felt that this ship was calling me and applied as soon as I could.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

If you want to go into geology, I’d recommend closely following whatever makes you happy to read or think about. Try to not base the direction you go in on how challenging a class was because generally, that isn’t representative of how awesome research in the field is. I had a hard time in math courses when I was younger and now I’m doing exciting research in geophysics! Think about the work you’d enjoy doing or the questions you dream of answering and use both of those things to guide you. If you’re taking steps towards subjects that make you excited, you’re doing the right thing! Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out or to ask questions. Embracing the unknown is one of the most exciting things in geology because it means an opportunity for exploration, travel and finding new teammates that end up being your best friends!